Zuli, a fledgling startup that wasn’t even a blip on anyone’s radar last year, has just raised $1.65 million in venture capital from a handful of investors, including Menlo Ventures, Winklevoss Capital, Logitech, DeNA, XG Ventures, FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stokols, and Hossein Eslambolchi, former CTO of AT&T.
The company produces a line of innovative Bluetooth smart plugs that boast a unique feature: the ability to detect your presence. Just one plug by itself will get you features like energy monitoring and remote activation, but if you outfit your home with three or more plugs, that’s when the magic happens. Once you’ve got at least three Zuli plugs in your wall, they’ll work together to create a Bluetooth mesh network and triangulate your position in a given room. This might not sound like much, but it enables a wide range of super-useful automation functions. Imagine having the lights switch on or off as you enter or leave a room, or your coffee maker springing to life as soon as it realizes you’re headed to the kitchen in the morning. It’s all possible with presence detection, and the more plugs you add to your home, the more accurate the detection algorithm will become.
This new seed round adds to the $175K the company raised during its Kickstarter campaign, which came to a close in January of this year. In addition to helping the company grow and distinguish itself form other smart plug brands, this fresh infusion of cash will help them achieve a key milestone: actually shipping their product to backers. Zuli was originally shooting for a June 2014 ship date, but had to push it back to November after running into some unforeseen manufacturing hiccups. This isn’t unusual for crowdfunded hardware projects, but now that the company has a fatter wallet to work with, it shouldn’t have trouble getting its product out the door.
On top of the new investor money, Zuli also announced that it has established a development partnership with renowned design firm Astro Studios — designers of the Nike FuelBand and Xbox 360. It’s still a bit early to call, but hopefully this means the company has plans to create additional smart home products moving forward. Find out more here.